Sam Clipperton believes that a step up in trip can help Prawn Baba to gain a first dirt victory in Wednesday night’s Class 3 Kestrel Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin.
The John Size-trained Prawn Baba (133lb) made his debut on the Sha Tin all-weather track on 13 January, closing off well for fourth behind Classic Emperor in a Class 2 over 1650m with Clipperton in the saddle.
“It was a very good first run on the surface,” Clipperton said at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning (23 January). “He had obviously trialled on the dirt and trialled well, so there was no reason to think he wouldn’t handle it. It was probably a little bit sharp and obviously it was a stronger race than what he tackles here.”
While Prawn Baba’s rating of 85 still has him firmly in Class 2 territory, last year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby seventh sneaks into this extended-band Class 3 affair at the top of the ratings. For Clipperton, the extra weight is offset by the added distance of Wednesday night’s contest.
“The step up to the 1800m will only assist him, he has plenty of stamina,” he said. “He does have to carry the top weight but that shouldn’t worry him – he’s a big, strong horse – so I think he’ll run well. He’s the one to beat.”
Prawn Baba opens his Hong Kong account in a Class 2 event last season, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Another of last year’s Derby crop also tackles this dirt affair with trainer Tony Cruz’s Circuit Hassler (128lb) making his debut on the all-weather track under Zac Purton.
“I think (the dirt) will suit him, because he can overrace a little bit in his races, he gets on the bit and wants to overdo it,” Purton said. “On the dirt, they can quite often roll a little bit more genuinely. So hopefully that’s the case and he can get into a rhythm and come at them with one run.
“Obviously, the grade should be suitable for him. Hopefully, we can see the best of him because he is not an easy horse to ride – he’s ungenuine, he does a lot to get himself beaten, so a lot needs to go right for him to give us his best.”
Also among the 12-strong field for the Kestrel Handicap are two-time course and distance winner Willie Way (123lb), last-start placegetters Roman Impero (113lb) and Gran Master (113lb), and Let Us Win (113lb), who flashed home at his only start on this surface two starts back.
The eight-race Sha Tin card begins with the Class 5 Spoonbill Handicap (1200m) at 7.15pm and concludes with the Class 3 Flamingo Handicap (1650m) at 10.55pm.